Race Week: SEAA Road Relays, or The Week That Shit Got Real

A week of things!

I know a fair few people are reading this, through Facebook/actual conversation, but Half Rust now has it’s first actual follower! A quick bit of internet-stalkering informs me that he’s only a bloody professional triathlete, so now I have to sound like I know what I’m doing. Shit.

Following another brisk brick session yesterday, I sat down in a cycling cafe with the same coach who led the brick session. We spent the best part of an hour and a half going over the schedule for my life for the next year. I say an hour and a half; it was somewhere plus/minus thirty minutes of that. I kind of lost track, there was a lot to take on. Suffice to say, yesterday was the first proper twinges of The Fear. Of note: total goal time has been dropped from twelve hours to eleven hours forty five minutes, as I’m just too keen on faffing and need to cut that shit out. Also according to the Macmillan running calculator I should be able to comfortably run a sub-three hour marathon. I am not sure how much faith I would place in this Macmillan running calculator.

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Myself and the heroic brick-ers yesterday.

Any who – as such, I’ve been combating The Fear this morning with this and this and giggling hysterically while I weep calorific tears over the life of a hairy hermetic post-hipster that I’m about to grind into dust. I mean, it won’t be exactly like that. For one thing, I do my training in the evening, when there are regular people around to bask in my vain glory as I fly down the high street, engaged in a running war with an articulated lorry, disappearing over the horizon screaming WITNESS ME at the top of my burning lungs.

Today is/was also race day! The first of my hectic late-season schedule, a quick 6k running jaunt in the South East Athletics Association men’s road relays. Teams of six, each competing a leg over what has been described as an ‘undulating’ course; that fine athlete’s terminology that basically means ‘big fucking hills, and lots of them’. It’s the running equivalent of a ‘technical’ bike course. I’m not quite sure what the swimming equivalent is, but I’m sure I’ll find out (maybe ‘combative’ for triathlons?).

Sat tapping away at the iPad prior to my shift, it struck me how nervous I get before races. Not a long time before, but immediately before – either at the race briefing for individual races, or as soon as things kick off for relay events. At these points on race day, without fail, these things happen: my tongue will stick to the top of my mouth like a drunk clingy ex, then my face will turn to the dour kind of expression that your parents told you it’d get stuck as if the wind changed when you were a kid, and finally my stomach will suddenly feel like it wants to migrate to some sunny archipelago in the other hemisphere and, crucially, a long fucking way away from the rest of my body.

Obviously this is due to being a big bundle of nerves, but why? I’ve recently discovered the wonders of Imposter Syndrome, which is my favourite psychological idea of the week, and largely describes my feelings towards myself a lot of the time in sport (and elsewhere, to be honest). Imposter Syndrome is described as the inability to internalise one’s own achievements, unable to believe themselves deserving of success (thanks Wikipedia, that vast repository of all knowledge). I imagine this concept sounds very familiar to many people who have experienced severe depression. It is a thought process that I have to struggle against a lot.

Take today, for example. I posted a 22:10 split, which works out at just the wrong side of a 3:40/k pace. By the results today, that was not a great time: not saying I’m personally disappointed, but looking at it objectively. I’m a pretty decent runner for an amateur triathlete, but at ‘serious’ running events I tend to get left in the dust. That doesn’t bother me too much, because any pure running event just isn’t a main event for me at the moment (Sorry Bryn/Keith!).

What I struggle with is when I go back to the triathlon crowd, or my other running group (which is much more fitness/community orientated and mixed, rather than a race club), and people tell me that I’m a good/great/wonderful/Jesus-like runner. Maybe I am, but when I throw myself up against dedicated runners it doesn’t feel like it. In different environments I’m quick, but I don’t feel like I’m being compared to the right level. Especially when the Jesus comparisons start flying. I think it’s the beard, but people definitely forget that Jesus would almost certainly be one of those mental barefoot runners, and I’m just not down with that.

It’s also why I’m not always sure how to react when people label me with terms like ‘inspirational’ (yes, I’m being serious, people have called me this). I don’t feel particularly inspirational; while others see only the man who pulled himself together, I can sometimes struggle to look past the preceding years where things weren’t going so great, and don’t see myself as someone who’s achieving beyond the norm, but just as someone who has managed to push himself back to the norm after casting himself way, way below it. The distance traveled in the two opposing views of me is the same, but the start/end locations are skewed.

What the shit does all this gabble have to do with an Ironman? Two things.

One: even my sad-puppy brain can’t rationalise up a way in which an Ironman is not a significant achievement. Not everyone can do an Ironman. One cannot simply luck their way through an event of that magnitude. Should I finish it, I have one thing to fall back on when I need to feel like I have achieved impressive things.

Two: I mentioned the size of the crowds at Kalmar last week. This will, I hope, be a massive boost when I’m two hours into the run and feeling like a modern day Sisyphus. However, while a big crowd can be a great encouragement, it’s sometime hard to take that encouragement on board when you feel as if you might be dying. It’s no use being told you’re doing great when you feel like you’re dying, because the dying feeling kind of filters everything with a sarcastic, self-mocking tinge. One thing I will need to work on in the lead up to this is my mental state and maybe learning to take some praise for what it is every now and again.

Anyway, that’s a cheery though for the week. Back to Triathlons next weekend, where I’ll be coming at you live from Hever Castle/the pub/probably on the Monday after I’ve got super fucking drunk.

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Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!

2 responses to “Race Week: SEAA Road Relays, or The Week That Shit Got Real

  1. Pingback: (Impromptu) Race Week: SEAA 12 Stage Road Relays, or A Conviction That Speeds – Half-Rust·

  2. Pingback: The Fear Before – Half-Rust·

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